Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On the move again after one week in Gardnerville

Gardnerville is on the west side of Nevada, about midway between the north and south boundaries. It is a small town surrounded by ranches. My sister Linda (#3 in the Anderson lineup; I'm #2), her three grown sons and their families live in this area.

Linda recently had a knee replaced and I was able to be her driver for errands and such. We had great visiting time, a lot of it talking about our childhood years. She is four years younger than I. A phone call to sibling #1 (two years older than I) filled in some gaps.

On the Sunday I was there, we had a family dinner at the Tim Slaters. Other activities included church on Sunday and a Bible study on Monday evening. I got my annual fill of TV programs: NASCAR racing, sports, and a whole lot of advertising!

Since Linda lives in a senior home area, there was no good place to park Jeremiah. So I moved stuff into her guest room, parked the motorhome at her son Tim's home nearby and slept in a real bed for the week! When Tim brought Jeremiah to me the day I left, the gas tank was full and all the bugs washed off! What a super surprise!

Tonapah, Nevada
After a week, it was time to continue on my travels. I drove south on Hwy 95 alongside Walker Lake, past the Hawthorne Army Depot, the Columbus Salt Marsh, tiny specks of towns named Mina and Luning. The Excelsior Mountains were west of the highway and to the east was the Monte Cristo Range. I camped a night in Tonapah. This really small town's school teams are called the “Muckers” (I learned from friend Jesse that this is a mining term).

Once past this town it was a whole bunch of nothing! The highway did take me through some dot-sized towns, Goldfield, Beatty and Amargosa. On this route, to the west were the Silver Peak Range and the Sarcobatus Flat and the eastern-most part of Death Valley. To the east of the highway was Mud Lake, Stonewall Flat, Tolcha Peak (7,054 feet) the Nevada National Security Site.

Pahrump, Nevada
I was going to get a campsite at Saddles West Casino and RV park – until the clerk checking me in asked me to leave my credit card and my driver's license (copies of) with her. Why? She said it was policy in case I didn't unplug my utilities and caused any damage. “So basically management doesn't trust the campers?” I asked. She said, “yes”. To which I replied, “Well I don't trust the management with my credit card number and my driver's license information. I'll stay elsewhere.” And I left and went across to an RV park that was actually much nicer – had grass and trees. All Saddles West had was blacktop.

After a late afternoon and evening visiting with my (ex) father-in-law Earl Serry, I stayed another day, giving myself a day of R&R before traveling on.

Where I am now
After a stop in Las Vegas at Sam's Club and Walmart, I drove east, heading to Southern Utah. Well, to get there, I had to go through a corner of Arizona, then into Utah. Couldn't find a nice-looking campground in St. George. The highway took me back into Arizona - and then north into Utah. A round-about route, but certainly beautiful.

What's next?
I'll go back into Arizona - poking along northeastern Arizona, I'll probably spend a night to so in Page before continuing to Farmington, NM and then on to Navajo Lake State Park. Here I'll be a “real camper” instead of a campground host. Of course you know I'll help out if needed!

I'll be in Rio Rancho/Albq area from Oct. 15 through 26, and then head for home!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We definitely live in a beautiful country!

We need the tonic of wildness – to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. – Henry David Thoreau

A tonic of wildness - Such anticipation!
My first taste of Glacier National Park was from the east side. After a night at an RV park just outside of Glacier, I continued my travels on Highway 2 that skirts the southern edge. Most travelers are not in a hurry on this road, allowing for those of us who don't want to miss any of the sights. First stop when I reached West Glacier was to drive into the park to sign up for a Red Bus trip.

The historic Red Bus
A friend had written to say that this was the best way to see the park – and well worth the cost. I was in luck, the next 6-hour interpretive bus trip started soon; giving me enough time to get settled into an RV park. Transportation was in one of the park's bright red, open-top 1920s vintage touring cars!

The “Going-to-the-Sun” Road
This road is said to be the 'most scenic route on this planet!' Going from dense forest in the west through prairie grasslands to the east, this narrow road was built in 1932 and rebuilt in 2005. Along the way we passed gorgeous granite peaks, waterfalls, lakes, historic lodges and more. One of many sight-seeing and photo-taking stops was at the lodge/visitor center at Logan Pass, It straddles the Continental Divide at 6,646 feet. The road was narrow and steep – and I'm sure glad to be seeing the scenery from the bus.

Wild and rugged – and beautiful Glacier National Park; up close and personal
The park is about 1,500 square miles of high altitude scenery, including glaciers for which the park is named. There are more than 200 lakes and countless rivers and streams. There were some remaining snow fields and a few glaciers visible in the distance.

Here are some photos I took – none that really do the beauty of the park justice.

Standing up in the Red Bus - glacier an snow field

At one of many waterfalls

another waterfall

Sun is setting in Glacier Par

More Montana and Idaho
From West Glacier, I continued west on Highway 2, staying a night at Two-Bit Outfit RV park in Libby (MT) and then a night at Riley Creek in Idaho's panhandle.

Consumer News – a public service
A stop for groceries provided some good laughs.
  • As I walked through the paper products area, a display of toilet paper caught my eye! In bold graphics, each package boasted that it featured “cleanstretch” for a “confident clean”. Of course I bought the package and back at Jeremiah I compared this 'new-improved stuff to my usual. I must report, no noticeable difference.

  • A “wax-vac” for ear wax removal. This is a hand-held device that I assume is battery powered. I did not buy it, so there's no report to pass along.
Destination: Spokane, Washington, to visit family at their “hobby farm”
My nephew Peter Hardt and his wife Carlene live on what they call a hobby farm. Critters include sheep: one horny and happy ram and his small harem of three ewes (one currently pregnant), and two 12-week-old lambs. Chickens: one happy rooster and his harem of egg-laying hens. Two dogs and a cat. They also grow various vegetables and have fruit trees.

Since they both work, this visit was limited to the weekend – and we certainly packed it with adventures along with plenty of critter time.

Spokane County Interstate Fair
Ridin' Rockin' Livestockin' was the fair theme. Peter and I enjoyed the various fair displays, animals, and such on Saturday while Carlene, as a member of the local photography club, was taking a shift at the photography displays. She is a gifted and talented photographer and had a few ribbon-winning photos there.

You know that I spent a lot of time with the critters – thoroughly enjoying each and every one. Here are some of my fancy favorites:

Decorated Bull

Fancy, spotted chicken

Decorated Cow

Decorated goat
Chicken having a bad-hair dey
More Wildness: Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge
On Sunday, Carlene treated me to a visit to this wildlife refuge. Turnbull is a unique area of wetlands, grasslands and forests that has been set aside as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds. And one of those birds – a Trumpeter Swan – has fascinated Carlene for a number of years. So much, that she has thousands of photos of the swan, many of those that are in the book she has written and published, A Swan and His Family.

What's special about these swans? In the early 1900s, Trumpeter Swans were hunted nearly to extinction. Thanks to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, these swans are making a comeback. They are the largest of all native North American wildfowl: males stand about 5-feet tall, can stretch to nearly 6-feet from bill to feet, and wingspans are from 6 to 8 feet!

Not just a book of pretty pictures, Carlene has included educational facts making this book a good resource for children and adults alike. (available from Amazon)

Back into Idaho for the drive south and then into Oregon – more wildness
Highway 95 South is definitely more wildness! I spent one night at an RV park in Grangeville, Idaho, and continued south the next morning. This highway took me along the Salmon River, down into numerous canyons and back up again to high places. It was a roller-coaster road.

I chose to drive a longer-than-usual route because I wanted to end up at Junipers Reservoir RV Park in southern Oregon. Once in this state, I changed to highways 20 and 395. Along the way were some teeny, one-dot towns with virtually no services. At one point, I back-tracked several miles to fill Jeremiah's gas tank – good thing, too! The portion of 395 had no fuel opportunities for a hundred or so miles. And a lot of the road was out of cell phone service area! It took me along a smelly, most likely usually dry, alkali lake bed. It did have some water that was the source of the smell.

The sun was setting as I drove through the small town of Lakeview; I had to pull over and wait for the sun to go behind a nearby hill because I was headed west and had the sun seriously in my eyesight.

Tomorrow I'll drive to Gardnerville, Nevada, for a visit with my sister Linda. I'll also turn over two non-working laptops to her son, Tim, and get some help with this durn Windows 8!

Thanks for traveling along with me! And thanks for keeping in touch via email and phone.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

More Montana including historic Fort Benton

Don't get so focused where you're going that you don't see where you are!”
--great advice for travelers from Darrell Kipp, filmmaker, writer and educator

I've been traveling through The Great Northern Plains
The northern prairie before the farmers arrived was a sea of grasses interspersed with sage and badlands. The land supported vast herds of bison, pronghorn and prairie dogs which provided food for the wolf, coyote, eagle. Trees include ash, cottonwood and box elder. Prairie streams accommodated muskrat and beaver that brought the first white trappers to tap the riches of the high plains. Furs, gold, and cattle encouraged successive invasions. Eventually the farmers arrived and changed the land forever, creating one of the most productive grain producing regions in the world. 

Hwy 2 pretty much parallels the U.S/Canadian border, and the busy freight and Amtrak train route. The highway is a peaceful drive with wide open spaces! The area is in what is called the High Plains. Few trees are here in the eastern part of the state.

The Three Chinooks
Chinook is the name of a small town on Montana's Highway 2, the brand name of my tiny home on wheels, and it also is a weather phenomenon. A “Chinook” is a wind that can warm a winter chill 50 degrees in several minutes and melt a foot of snow in a day. I decided it would be fitting to spend one night here as part of my adventure.

The drive from Fort Peck to Chinook – about 150 miles.
Driving into town, I noticed that a lot of things and places – including the RV park where I stayed – have the name Bear Claw because a nearby small mountain range is called Bear Claw.

Historic Fort Benton
My original tentative travel plans were to cross North Dakota, Montana and Idaho totally on Highway 2. Showing this first map to friends in Prescott Valley, Darcie said I should go a bit out of my way – southwest on Highway 87 – to go through Fort Benton so I could meet and visit her dad and his wife. I'm so glad I took her suggestion! I never dreamed what awaited me.

Early Missouri River traffic
Indians in their canoes were the early river traffic. In the mid-to-late 1800s, steam-wheelers arrived and were moored along the bank of the Missouri at Fort Benton – it was the farthest upstream they went, and then only in Spring when the river ran high enough. The boats were loaded with whiskey, gold pans, sail, bacon, boots and miners. Ox teams then hauled the freight along a half-dozen or so trails to far-away points. Wells Fargo coaches took miners to Helena, about 150 miles away, for $25; fights with the Blackfoot Indians were free.

Early Fort Benton
Between 1859 and 1890, six hundred boats docked at Fort Benton. They supplied the U.S. Cavalry, the Indians the soldiers hunted, Canadian Mounties, and whiskey-runners. Benton merchants were impartial about business. Merchandise was sent to posts at Fort Whoop-Up, Qu'Appelle, Last Chance Gulch and other places with just ordinary names.

Fort Benton, alongside the Missouri River, was founded in 1846 by the American Fur Company and is
the birthplace of Montana. It recently was named by Forbes magazine as one of the fifteen “prettiest small towns in the nation.” (Forbes website, Aug. 16, 2013).

Four outstanding days in Fort Benton
I parked at a lovely campground and then walked the dozen or so blocks along the Missouri River and into the historical downtown area. I found Wally and Muncie Morger's home. At age 90, Wally is the town's oldest living native; a walking history book. During his working years – after serving in the Marines – he had a rural mail route. His wife, Muncie, is very active in the community. Between the two of them, this delightful couple must know everyone for miles around. As a keepsake memento, Wally gave me a buffalo nickel and Muncie gave me a beautiful quilt!

That first afternoon just flew by as I learned about the Morger family and the town. For dinner they took me to Ma's Cafe in nearby Loma. Along the way we took a drive to a farm property where a small herd of bison are raised. This guy looks like he's hogging the alfafa!

For dinner Wally and I chose the walleye pike – yum! Delicious!

During the next three days I learned so much. Special places I visited included Old Fort Benton, Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument Interpretive Center, Museum of the Upper Missouri, Museum of the Northern Great Plains, Montana's Museum of Agriculture, Gallery of Western Art and Taxidermy, Homestead Village, The Historic Grand Union Hotel, The Schwinden Library and the Chouteau (pronounced Show-tow) County Library. If that isn't enough, the entire walkway along the river has statues and interpretive signs of historical buildings.

Here are some of the photos I took as I wandered museums and walkways.

In Heritage Village
Jail cell - looks very uncomfortable
The large stuffed buffalo on the right was the model for the old nickle. Also it was at the Smithsonian for years before coming back to Fort Benton

clever idea for a fence - at Ag Museum
Oops! misspelling on walkway to BLM center
Grand Union Hotel
Opened Nov. 1, 1882 – this elegant hotel was Fort Benton's pride, a haven of relaxation in a boisterous frontier town at the head of navigation on the Missouri. It was the finest hostelry between Seattle and the Twin Cities and cost $200,000 to build It is still an operating hotel with an elegant dining room.

Looking down the Missouri River from the old bridge above

One of several Lewis, Clark and Sakagwea

Five of The Morger clan at a minor league baseball game.  I went with them to a Voyagers game in Great Falls one evening (not shown is Wally)
The famous dog, Shep (read his story below)
An unnoticed and undocumented Sheepherder's body was shipped back East one August day in 1936. From that moment a nondescript sheep dog of pronounced Collie strain was observed meeting each train. He met every train, day or night, for the next 5-and one-half years! He slept nearby at nights. Not a young dog when his master died, he was no longer agile; his hearing and other senses dulled with age. Shep met his last train January 1942. As train #235 pulled up at the Fort Benton depot, bystanders saw him look up when the engine was almost upon him. He slipped on the snowy rails and was hit by the train. The dog was buried on a bluff overlooking the depot. His funeral was attended by hundreds, and school was dismissed so the children could attend. Fort Benton Boy Scout troop acted as pallbearers and taps was sounded at the grave site. There are two monuments of Shep in Fort Benton. A spotlight shines on the grave each night.

After Fort Benton - Great Falls, Montana
Jeremiah is a 2004 model, the other one is 1998
Needing some groceries and a stop at the Verizon phone store, I spent a day in Great Falls. The next morning, I went to the Visitor Center and took a small tour bus that took us through the historic area and some tourist spots along the river. When we returned to the Visitor Center, imagine my surprise to see another Chinook parked alongside Jeremiah!

After Great Falls - The next blog entry will tell about my tour of Glacier National Park.